PCW concludes national feedback forum on UNCSW63 outcomes, presents BPfA +25 report

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), in partnership with key national government agencies (NGAs) and civil society organizations (CSOs), concluded the national feedback forum on the outcomes of the 63rd session of United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) 63 and the Philippine Progress Report on the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) + 25 on July 4, 2019 at the Pearl Hotel Manila in Ermita, Manila. 

The “Luzon and Metro Manila leg” of the forum completed the national series of said activity which apprised stakeholders on the updates and accomplishments and interventions of the Philippine Delegation (PhilDel) during the UNCSW 63 sessions held in New York, USA last March 11 to 22.  Around 80 participants from the government agencies, and various CSOs and non-government organizations (NGOs) attended the event.

In her opening Remarks, PCW Chairperson Rhodora M. Bucoy emphasized the importance of social protection measures in the reduction of maternal mortality and upliftment of the living conditions of rural women in the country.  “Access to public services of poor girls mean a lot in terms of improvement of girls’ basic education. Improvement in infrastructure such as water and sanitation free women from walking long distances to fetch water and lessen their physical exhaustion in doing this reproductive work,” Bucoy said.  Chairperson Bucoy ended her opening message with a quote from the UN Secretary General: “We will have to push against the push back and we will keep pushing.”  Prior to the event, the “Visayas-Mindanao leg” of the forum was held at the Ateneo De Davao University on June 21, 2019 with 124 participants from various government agencies and CSOs from Visayas and Mindanao. 

Empowering ‘Aging Women’ 

While the Philippines is still far from being considered as an aging population, the PhilDel representatives deemed it important to push for the rights of elderly women this early, during the UNCSW Conference side-events.  According to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) President Dr. Celia M. Reyes, senior citizens in the country are less economically active than the younger age groups, hence, greater support is needed in terms of health care and income. In her report, Dr. Celia Reyes revealed that 12% of social pensioners are members of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and Social Security System (SSS), and most of which fall in richer deciles. There is a need, therefore, to assist the majority of indigent elderly persons, especially since the current PHP 500.00 monthly subsidy does not suffice in making their ends meet. Meanwhile, a feature on senior women activists or “Lola Aktibistas” in the Philippines was presented by Dr. Socorro L. Reyes of the Center for Legislative Development International (CLDI). She named seasoned women activists who were instruments in catalyzing change towards women’s empowerment. Among the featured personalities in her presentation were former PCW Chairperson Aurora Javate-De Dios of the Women and Gender Institute of Miriam College, former Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles, and Sr. Mary John Mananzan of the St. Scholastica’s College.  In the same report, Dr. Socorro Reyes emphasized the imperative to view older persons as rights holders by recognizing their rights to both empowerment and protection from discrimination. She also mentioned the need for the government to develop indicators, collect data, and raise public awareness on the rights of the elderly. 

Social Protection of women and girls 

Social Protection, as explained by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Undersecretary Luzviminda Ilagan, consists of policies and programs that seek to reduce poverty vulnerability to risk and enhance social status and rights of the marginalized. This is realized by promoting and protecting the livelihood and employment against hazards and sudden loss of income, and improving peoples’ capacities to manage risk.  According to Ilagan, the Philippines already placed mechanisms to promote social protection among the marginalized sectors such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). In addition, the DSWD implements the Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT) program to alleviate the effect of the TRAIN Law, Modified Cash Transfer programs especially designed for indigenous peoples in the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA), social pensions for elderly persons, and assistance to individuals in crisis situations.  Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) Program is a cash for work program by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). The Department of Health (DOH) ensures coverage for all Filipinos under the Universal Health Care (UHC) Program, and free tertiary educational assistance from the Unified Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Act (UniFAST) managed by the Commission on Higher Education.  

Commitment to implement the agreed conclusions

 Key government agencies read their commitment to fully support the implementation of the agreed conclusions of the UNCSW63 Conference. The agencies that provided their commitments were the CHED, NEDA, DOH, Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the DSWD. 

 UN Commission on the Status of Women 63 

The final agreed conclusions of sixty-third session of the UNCSW63 includes strengthening the normative, legal and institutional environment, addressing gender gaps and biases in social protection, transforming public services for gender equality and women’s empowerment, making infrastructure investment work for women and girls, and mobilizing resources, strengthening accountability and improving evidence. Said Conference addressed as its priority theme ‘Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls’.  The UN CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. A functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), it was established by Council in June 1946. Hi-level Representatives from all UN Members States gather every year in March to discuss good practices, challenges and recommendations on priority themes aligned with the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) of 1995. The Philippine Statement highlighted how a gender perspective has been integrated into the country’s various programs and initiatives to expand social insurance; improve access to employment and livelihood opportunities; enhance the well-being of the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized; and make social safety nets responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable population.  The PCW co-headed the Philippine Delegation with the DFA. Representatives from the DSWD, NEDA CHR, CHED, PIDS, as well as civil society organizations namely the Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK) and the CLDI composed the PhilDel. 

Beijing Platform for Action + 25

 Aside from presenting the developments on the UNCSW63, the forum also paved the way for the presentation of the highlights of the Philippine Progress Report on the Beijing Platform for Action after 25 years (BPfA + 25). The BPfA is the most comprehensive and progressive document that advances the rights of women and gender equality across 12 areas of concerns. The review also coincides with an assessment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) after 5 years. PCW-Sectoral Coordination Division (SCD) Chief Macario T. Jusayan shared the country’s key achievements in implementing the BPfA covering 2014 to 2019. Meanwhile, PCW Supervising GAD Specialist Ms. Pamela Susara presented the recommendations and strategies for addressing the gaps and challenges which surfaced during the series of consultation with stakeholders. Synthesizing what transpired throughout the day, PCW Executive Director Emmeline Verzosa said that among the priority actions for the next five years are the following: 1) Improving quality of education and learning outcomes; 2) Decrease the incidents of stunting and malnutrition; and 3) Decrease in the number of teenage pregnancies. The full Philippine Progress Report on BPfA +25 will be presented during the 10th anniversary of the Magna Carta of Women (Republic Act 9710) on August 14, 2019.